John Mayer: Battle Studies

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Posted September 16, 2010 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0

johnmayer00Singer/songwriter keeps exploring roots blues and classy pop rock on fourth record

Though it’s rational to group John Mayer into the songwriter/singer field, he doesn’t make an easy transition into such a limited category. It’s not all his fault that he can easily write a song and knows how to interpret them musically. Even the tabloids know he’s way too shiny for such a small lounge performance. But his acoustic-rendered adult contemporary style and bluesy rock-pop, mixed with good grooves and strong lyricism peaking on his best-selling LP Continuum, gave Mayer a strong advantage; pushing him blocks away from being branded as some Norah Jones fluke. His follow-up, Battle Studies, makes some good and interesting choices. On the cutesy “Half of My Heart,” Taylor Swift only chimes in on the bridge and is restrained to doing just harmonies on the chorus. It’s a choice that ultimately prevails in righteousness. “All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye,” certain to be the album’s leading single, has all the magic of a timeless ‘70s soft rock ballad. Modern Southern soul, using an Albert King-meets-Stevie Ray Vaughan guitar solo, gets the best of the album’s only cover song “Crossroads.”“Perfectly Lonely,” the Bono-natured “Heartbreak Warfare” and “Assassin” keeps the enjoyment going. There’s not much conviction in his tone, no final gritty groans to compliment some of that soulful guitar, so it’s easy to write Battle Studies off as a bland lazy workout. But the grooves and Mayer’s cool demeanor – that laid-back vocal – makes Mayer too irresistible to undermine. It’s a bit more laid back and posh than Continuum. But right now, he needs a calmer from all those murky headlines.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 17 Nov 2009
  • Label: Columbia
  • Producers: John Mayer, Steve Jordan
  • Track Favs: All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye, Half of My Heart, Heartbreak Warfare, Perfectly Lonely

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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